Here’s the harsh truth about reality: If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. That’s just how it is at the end of the day. Everyone is busy and everyone has their own set of things to deal with. In the grand scheme of our careers, we may never think about taking care of ourselves and I find enough emphasis isn’t put on teaching or passing down advice and thoughts about taking care of yourself / “how to live a good life.” Which means most of your young adult and even mid-life are spent doing dumb things and probably taking years off your life! So in this post I wanted to talk about some of the realities of the working life, real life, and self care.
Work lasts forever
There’s always something that needs to be done. It’s a fallacy that creeps into our minds that tells us “well I’ll take a break when I don’t have much to do!” The problem is that that time truly never comes on it’s own. One thing leads always leads to another. Someone new is always emailing asking for something. There’s always new opportunities to explore. You need to come to the realization that work never stops unless you stop it deliberately.
If you can come to that realization and agree with me, then you’re in a great place to not only take care of yourself and make yourself a better person, but actually up your creativity and productivity. There are studies upon studies that show the benefits of rest and rejuvenation in general productivity and how important “boredom” is for being creative. You can just look those up yourself, I don’t have to cherry pick them and embed them, go see!
So the most important first step in self care and just general life is realizing that work will never end and that you have to just shut it down at some point during the day and transition to “regular life” and letting your mind and body rest.
Another huge fallacy I’ve experienced and seen in others is the idea that you could you be so great at one specific thing that it would be all you need. While maybe some cases have existed in history, it’s not really the standard experiences you’ll have in your normal life.
The truth of the matter is that we’re complex organisms with a lot of processes going on in parallel on so many different levels. We have our intellectual mind, our imagination, our social conditions, our physical abilities, our digestive system, our overall health and immune system, and more. To think to yourself something like “I’ll only consume non-fiction literature/media because I want to work in the real world!” equates to R.I.P – Imagination. When someone says they don’t sleep much and they eat junk food I immediately think “welps, I know who’s probably going to catch a cold on site and will probably get tired before everyone else on the long job-site days!” For our long term health and even short term productivity, we need to be feeding and working on all the aspects of ourselves.
To be clear, I’m not saying be an expert at everything, I’m just saying be well-rounded. Eat well, exercise regularly, go out and socialize with your friends regularly, sleep enough, consume all kinds of media, travel, etc. A simple example: if exercise and eating well weren’t SUPER IMPORTANT to you work life then all these big tech companies wouldn’t try to constantly feed you healthy food for free and give you gyms in the building. They don’t do these things because they care about you! They do these things because the science is so overwhelming clear that if you eat well and exercise regularly, you’re head-and-shoulders more productive than someone who doesn’t.
What is self care?
So with those 2 concepts/fallacies in mind, self care is something I think everyone should implement heavily into their lives. Self care is a pretty broad term. Generally it means taking time to purposefully do something for yourself. In a sense you’re taking care of yourself by trying to figure out what your body or mind need. Usually for us workaholics in a tech-related field, self care ends up being stuff like “get away from the computer and go exercise.” But beyond how simple a concept it is from the sounds, it’s psychologically important and you’ll find it heavily recommended as a part of therapy. Think of it as preventative medicine in some ways but not for one specific thing in our cases.
Things you can do
You’ll see in my list of stuff below that all kinds of things constitute as self care. I didn’t break the lists into sub groups or anything, you’ll have to use some of your brainmeat to balance your self care activities between the different aspects of yourself:
- Exercise (go for a run, do a HIIT 7 minute workout at home, go get a gym membership nearby, go to a yoga class)
- Eat healthy (which usually I equate to cook for yourself)
- Practice mindfulness (usually mindfulness meditation is a straight forward way with apps like Headspace or Waking up)
- Go outside for a walk (or hike or whatever, just get fresh air)
- Take a nap
- Watch a new TV show
- Go out and see a movie
- Reconnect with an old friend
- Call one of your friends and talk about non-work stuff
- Invite a friend to your place for a home cooked meal (it’ll still be fun even if you’re not a good cook!)
- Go shopping online
- Read a book
- Write in a journal (this is super good for your brain btw)
- Compliment someone you know on something
- Go get a massage (I prefer regular ol’ Thai massage, I don’t like the oily ones or the deep tissue ones)
- Clean your house or studio or office
- Donate old stuff you have that you never use
I’d recommend doing at least 3-5 of these things a week. AT LEAST. I mean, you should ideally just exercise 3 times a week…so if you come to me and say “I don’t have time to do 3-5 of these things a week,” I’m going to look you blankly in the face and tell you you’re probably wasting all your time and need better time management. So no excuses. Get out there and do some things that help round you out and take care of yourself.
I’m a big self care person now. I wasn’t in my younger years. I’d go hard all day long and work till I would just pass out. But if we’re talking about harsh realities again, I probably took years off my life and in hindsight I was generally too tired to actually be that productive. Now I make sure to get enough sleep, I get outside often (going for a hike in about 10 minutes after I post this!), I exercise regularly, read books, and do kinds of self care activities that give my body and mind both the ability to rest and a solid well-roundedness. And here’s the crazy part that young me would never have believed…I’m far more productive, creative, and capable now than I ever was back then and in far less amount of working hours I create far more high-quality output. Trust me on this, give it a try.